Respect: Raising Our Boys Right


We live in a world where things are done in a certain way, a patriarchal way. This is the world we are born into, but it doesn’t mean it’s the way things should be. It seems like the notion of equality is starting to gain traction, and most of it happens because people are more vocal about their stand on issues. We cannot just sit back and say the world will sort itself out. It won’t. We have to be the change we want to see in the world.

When we talk about gender rights most people instantly think about feminism. Feminism, by the definition that women are better than men, isn’t the right approach either. Feminism by definition that women are equal to men, should be the better definition. We should live in a world where there is equality for all, not just for men, not just for women, but for everyone. The argument for leftist feminism is that it is necessary for the formulation of a just and fair society. Leftist feminism is the result of unfettered patriarchy and is necessary to effect change, and it would seem that it is necessary to balance our patriarchal society. However, that too shall pass into a more stable equilibrium, eventually when we all know better.

The problem with education is that what we learn from young sticks to us the greatest. In the first 7 years of our lives, our formative years, we absorb everything that is told to us as absolute truths. We see the way our grandfathers treat our grandmothers, and the way our fathers treat our mothers, it all gets ingrained into our being as absolute truths. This is the problem with the learning process, and it’s very difficult to unlearn things that we have taken as truths. Because of patriarchy, women are taught to behave in certain ways, that a good wife or daughter serves her husband and family. You see this across many cultures, save the matrilineal ones.

On closer inspection of the reverse of the coin however, like the Tuareg of North Africa, show quite the opposite. These people are Muslim, which is traditionally patrilineal in nature, however, the women have superiority in education, succession of property and decision making including divorce, family, and the retention of children post-divorce. Everything is pretty much in the favour of the women as role reversal is prevalent. This goes to show that if we did live in a matrilineal world, extremes are as common.

In the Minangkabau tribe of Indonesia and Malaysia, gender roles are more interesting. The Minangkabau is a both matrilineal and patriarchal, this means that property is passed down through the female line, whereas the males of the tribe still handle religious and political affairs. This form of equality seems to favour both parties a little more as the women have as much right as the men. This matrilocal system, where the family moves in to the female family home, ensures that women have their rights protected over the long run. It’s not a perfect system, but at least there is more gender equality.

The general notion is that some men are brought up in a chauvinistic society, that they are made to feel that they are superior to women, and this is ironically not their fault. This is obviously a generalisation, and that many boys are raised to respect women. There are many reasons why certain people are a certain way, and that the more important lesson is that people just need to learn to respect themselves. How much a man respects a woman speaks not to his respect for her, but his respect for himself. The act of respecting someone else is much more telling about our self-confidence and how we see ourselves. That we are able to see ourselves as equals to others, and not needing to put others down just to temporarily feel better.

Self-preservation doesn’t help the situation either. Some are of the view that “If I raise my daughter right, she will not be tricked so easily.” This is a wrong life view. By saying that, you’re saying that, “Because my daughter was raised right, she managed to escape a tricky situation.” This is inadvertently saying that some other girl deserves her position because she wasn’t taught better in the first place. It’s not so much on how we need to educate our daughters to be wiser with men, but how we need to educate our sons to treat women better. Women should never feel responsible for something they did not do, that the onus is on all parties. It is important for us to learn and more importantly, for us to unlearn.

A lot of issues seem to be women’s fault, from birth control, having hysteria to having a difficult demeanour. This is the result of a male-oriented existence. We, as males, need to be responsible for our actions. We tend to make excuses to relieve us of our responsibilities. When a woman gets pregnant, it’s her fault. When a women gets raped, she did not take care of herself. Most of the time, they don’t even do anything to provoke these situations, but it’s easy for us men to just avail all responsibility. It is not only important for us to educate our sons right, but also our daughters that they shouldn’t allow themselves to be victims of blame, and not everything is their fault. Build up your children’s self esteem in the right way, regardless of their gender.

We as a society should make sure that we send the right message to our children. We as men should no longer use cop-outs, that we already gave fair warning, that we were clear with women. Life shouldn’t work on technicalities, that just because we have made things clear, things are clear. Times are changing and the closer we are to a better understanding of ourselves and what it takes to live a good life, the closer we can be to having humanity flourish.

Nicholas Ng

Nicholas Ng is a restaurant critic, travelogue and opinion columnist which is curated on Food For Thought. He has been a freelance writer for 10 years and has previously worked as a lawyer. He currently is the Principal Counsultant of A Thoughtfull Consultancy.


  1. A very interesting article Nicholas. You are clearly a thoughtful and considered author.
    There are several different ways to peel an orange. The measure of human behaviour across cultures can be remarkably different, and unfortunately not just. Well written article!

    • Thanks Ruddzy! I really like that… there are several different ways to peel an orange. And yes, the world is not a fair place, that’s why we need to be the change we want to see in the world.

  2. Great articles to read, yeah I have two boys too. It’s not easy to raise boys and I also find my boys like to fight, I hope they can learn sharing more. I don’t have daughter, but I was told raising daughter also not easy.

    • In today’s world its not easy either way. Just hope that things will change in the future.

  3. Hi Nick! its all back on one person background and grown up surrounding. The Minangkabau tribes, I was told during my visit there,the boys will live out of home since age 7 years old. Normally they will study and sleep in mosque. They then will travel out and work hard to bring home money.

    • Yeah, its quite a reversal of roles with the Minangkabau. But that’s the interesting observation, because as I mentioned above, it’s still decidedly on one side. That’s why equality for all is important. 🙂

  4. Superb sharing….. It’s not easy to get it right, thanks for sharing!~

  5. Very interesting article. Without your sharing I won’t know about these fact. Thanks for sharing and should read about this article :’)

  6. So true nick, I have heard friends say stuff like it’s more worrying to have daughters than sons, becoz they are worried their daughters will get into trouble with guys etc, but even having sons we should not just feel like they can do whatever they want with girls and that as boys they won’t lose anything..I think sons need double the parenting to ensure they will grow up as good men that respects women as a beautiful creation of God, never objectifying women and be able to love one woman as he loves himself, not one being better than the other. As parents we really need to live by example not just to our kids, but all children we come across.

    • This was primarily a reason I wrote this article. I feel that education is key to a good life, and that we are all capable of it. It is therefore even more important that people pursue the right kind of living, making sure that we can thrive as a human race, and as a whole.

  7. Truly inspiring article. In this world, female and male are both equivalent responsible to prevent all these things to happen. Hence from small a child need to be educate with love and respect to each other. Thanks for the sharing!

  8. This is so true, Nick! We live in a world where people try to project women empowerment but the reality is that there is still so much to be done! And don’t get me started on radical feminists! Yes, to equality! No gender is better or weaker than the other. I hate it when people twist great ideas and movements to promote their own agenda. More posts like this please! Would love to read more of your thoughts! 🙂

    • Thanks for your kind words Carol! Indeed, but I am very hopeful for a changing future. It’s great that people are able to to educate themselves as much as possible.

  9. Hi! To be honest, from your article, I am rather amazed how beautiful each and every culture is. I concur that the first 7 years of a kids life is when they absorb most of the things. Do it right, and kids will grow up right. 🙂

  10. This is actually an interesting article to read nicholas! Thumbs up – i’ll be checking out your writing a lot more after this , keep it up 😀

    • Thanks Diana. I hope this will help more people create the right kind of approach to life. 🙂

  11. When people learn the difference between equality and equity i believe we can see changes in out society

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